Egrel slowly approached the Captain’s ready room. He had been requested to see Halsey after things had relatively calmed down. He stopped outside the door and lifted a hand to press the chime. He had no reason to be anxious, yet he was.
Halsey was working his way through the senior staff reports and had made a few notes on corrections needed when the crew returned. He’d made it about halfway before the chime to his ready room rang. He’d asked the Chief Counselor to come to check out with him. The man had been through much, and brain surgery had been one of them. “Enter.”
The door slid open, and the Betazoid entered.
Egrel offered a faint, tired smile to Halsey as he stepped into the ready room, “Sir….” He clasped his hands in front of him. Instead of his usual tight and neat bun, he had his long blonde hair down and falling around his shoulders.
Halsey offered him the replicator.
Choi hesitated before stepping over to get himself a mug of Bajoran tea. He briefly was tempted to get some whiskey but decided against it. He strode over to sit across from Halsey, cupping his mug in both hands and staring into it for a moment.
As Choi settled into the seat across from him, Leopold leaned back in his chair, sipping at his black iced tea, “You’ve had a pretty rough few days, Lieutenant. I wanted to check in and see what you needed from me.”
Egrel blinked at Leopold a few times; then he slowly nodded as he replied, “That is a bit of an understatement, sir. I don’t… I don’t even know what I really need. I suppose…” He trailed off and frowned, then bluntly stated, “I’m scared, sir.”
The CO nodded, “An emotion you have every right to feel, counselor.” He took another sip and sat forward, “Walk me through that feeling…the how it feels and the why.”
Egrel sipped the tea slowly as he tried to organize his words into thoughts. He emitted a soft sigh, “I’ve never been telepathically attacked like that… Ever. Trauma and things that I have thought I dealt with accordingly were suddenly brought up.”
Leopold nodded gravely, “You’ve experienced a lot. The dangerous and powerful part of trauma is when it happens, it has a nasty habit of shaking loose stuff you put in closets and buried long ago.”
Egrel nodded slowly, “I feel like I’ve backtracked and lost years of progress for myself. My connection to people around me and my surroundings just… gone and dampened. I know they said the surgery will reverse its effects soon, but….” He trailed off and sipped his tea.
Halsey considered the chief counselor’s responses as he decided what to ask next. The reality of his position was that, at times, he was the counselor’s counselor. An odd position to be in, but something with which he was familiar. “What does progress look like for you, Egrel?”
Egrel opened and closed his mouth a few times, then sighed, “At least back to where I was before. To where I am not wary of everything and jumpy, expecting to be attacked again.” His dark eyes searched Leopold’s face as if faintly hoping the man held the answers he was seeking.
Leopold considered the response. There was an expectant pause in his answer. He decided to try something different. “You’ve experienced significant loss and trauma in your life, Egrel.” He held up his PADD, “I’m looking at a stark reminder of how much life can take from us in the death of others connected to us.” He let his words hold in the silence before he continued, “Most of the reports from counselors mention they weren’t quite convinced that you had processed them in a bid for a sense of peace. They cleared you for duty – there’s no doubt about your ability to serve. I suppose the question is – is there a distance between the trauma of the past and present…or are they closer than you thought?”
Egrel furrowed a brow as he listened to Leopold. He grimaced and looked away, avoiding looking directly at him. Leopold was direct and to the point. His voice was quiet, almost meek, “I didn’t realize how close the trauma was till the wounds were ripped open. I realize a few years is not enough time to properly mend after so much loss.” A heavy weight of grief hung around the Betazoid.
Halsey stood from his desk and motioned to the long couch set under the windows that stretched to the ceiling.
Egrel looked a little confused. Was he indicating for him to move to the sofa? He took it as that and slowly stood up, walking over to sit on it. He emitted a small sigh as he sat back, glancing at his CO.
The CO leaned back in his seat, “Grief is a monster, Egrel. Trauma is a similar beast. It can feel as if we’re going to be overwhelmed in the fight against them.” He sipped at his refilled mug.
Egrel nodded slowly as he sipped his tea, “Especially when there’s multiple. So much loss, so much trauma, all at once. Well,” he sighed, “Not immediately. Over the span of five years.” He studied Halsey’s face for a moment with dark eyes before glancing away, “I’m sure that it is on my file? I lost five partners in a short span of time?”
Leopold nodded, “The loss is indicated and noted in your file. What isn’t noted in complete detail is your recovery progress from that loss.” He eyed the chief counselor, “I need to know where you’re at in this, Egrel. Man to man, officer to officer – there’s only so much you can duck and dodge when it comes to stuff like this.”
Egrel shook his head slowly, “I’ll be honest, I don’t think I can fully and utterly recover from so much loss. Yes, I am able to do my duty to serve and help others. However, those wounds… They are still there.”
“They always will be. You’re going to have to take a long look at what all you’re doing to recover from that loss. The good stuff you’re doing to help reconcile the pain and emptiness. The bad stuff you might be doing that’s pushing you back a few steps…and the ugly – where we sabotage our journey on the road to recovery.”
Egrel looked away sharply, avoiding looking at his commanding officer. His drinking problem, which he kept a secret, rose to the front of his mind. It was a horrible coping mechanism. He risked a lot if he was honest about it, even more if he was dishonest. He sighed softly, “I… understand, sir. Who, though, would counsel the counselor?”
Leopold considered for a moment, “It could get tough if you use one of your counselors – the idea of a subordinate working with a superior in this isn’t great. I don’t think Commander Sorek would be a good choice. Vulcans have incredible control of their emotions…but they haven’t had much experience living with them in a very long time.” He offered, “I think it falls to me, Egrel.”
Egrel nodded slowly in understanding. He understood that not many have a higher security clearance than he or other Chiefs. “I can agree to that. That makes the most sense. I do not wish to be a burden to you or your duties.” He paused for a moment, “What is the best way to start this process?”
Halsey replied, “Humans, Betazoids, and most humanoids take time to reconcile with their trauma and the emotions within. I think we meet once a week for dinner to start the conversation.” He repeated, “You remain cleared for duty, and I have no doubt about your ability to serve the Mercy and her mission in the short term. In the long term…we’ve all got work to do to ensure we keep doing this for a long time. My confidence in you remains as strong as it was when I hired you for this job.”
Egrel nodded and leaned back lightly. He was glad he wouldn’t be removed from duty. That was his highest concern. “That sounds like a more than a suitable agreement to me, sir. Just.. let me know when and where. Still serving was my biggest concern.” He paused, smiling slightly and genuinely, “And… your confidence truly does mean a lot to me….”
Leopold gave a small smile in response, “Your continued service means a lot to me, Egrel.” He stood, “I’ll get my schedule arranged for our meetings. You can return to duty.”
Egrel smiled and rose to his feet, “Thank you, sir, that means a lot to me. Truly.” He inclined his head politely and turned to step out of the ready room and head back to his work. Halsey waited until the door closed behind his chief counselor officer to let out a long sigh. You learned plenty in both class and practical training. The reality of what command was is what formed each Captain on their commands. Halsey was still a work in progress, but he was thankful to be learning from his officers.